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Public Library presents scenarios for $17 million budget reduction target

Director of Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries, Charles Brown presented three budget scenarios to the Board of Trustees today in their regularly scheduled meeting. The board used these scenarios as a starting point for discussion; more work will be done before their next meeting May 20.

The scenarios outlined three different ways the Library could potentially deal with a $17 million budget reduction target from Mecklenburg County. The Library receives approximately 93% of its sustainable funding from the County.

Brown cautioned that all of the scenarios would result in a dramatically different reality for library service in Mecklenburg County. "None of the scenarios are ideal," Brown said, "but we realize that economic conditions may require that drastic measures may need to be taken. However, we remain committed to offering the very best library service possible with the resources that we are given."

Because the library’s biggest investment and expense is in personnel, all scenarios would result in the lay-off of 170 to 230 additional library employees. The following scenarios describe three different ways the library could address the cuts given such a large reduction in staff.

Scenario One allows for most libraries to remain open, but most locations would only be open one to three days per week and for limited hours, with some locations closed. This scenario leaves just 27 percent of the Library’s workforce intact (based on 614 positions in July 2008) and is not recommended because many citizens would not be able to use the library during the extremely limited hours, and because the employee to customer ratio at larger locations would be insufficient to ensure a safe environment for either employees or the public.

Scenario Two would close as many as 16 of the current 24 libraries based on both subjective and objective criteria, similar to what had been used in the scenario presented in March that recommended the closing of 12 branches. The criteria would include cost, usage, proximity and size in addition to community need. This scenario would result in large unserved areas and would leave a slightly larger percentage of the workforce intact, approximately 35 percent.

Scenario Three would involve keeping all of the regional libraries open, including ImaginOn and Main Library, but would close the community locations. This scenario also allows 35 percent of staff to remain and would provide minimal coverage for the largest segment of the community. Brown said that the Library understands the significance of the branch libraries to the community, but keeping the Regionals open allows the Library system to offer full service (including more computers, books, meeting rooms and copiers), and to be able to accommodate more parking.. In addition, this option provides a stronger starting place from which to rebuild the system should the economy recover.

Brown also indicated that a reverse scenario was considered that closed the regional libraries and kept the community libraries open, but the “cons” around this model included fewer book and computer resources available to a potentially larger number of users as well as issues of more limited physical space and parking availability.

Library officials want the community to understand that there are no perfect solutions to a $17 million targeted budget cut. No matter which scenario is selected, library customers will be negatively impacted because all of the scenarios include severe cuts to staff, library locations, service and materials.

Today's presentation was meant as a starting point for further discussions about the future of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and did not include any discussion yet about other funding diversification strategies.

Information sessions to facilitate a dialogue between the community and Library staff will take place from Mid-April to May 4. Information shared at these sessions will help inform any future scenarios and will help the community to understand the library’s decision-making process. To view the presentation, click here.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the Library’s final operating budget in June, following Mecklenburg County’s adoption of the FY11 budget.

For more information about the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library budget, visit our website at


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